CRS Rice Bowl touches lives near and far

Categories: Around the Diocese,lent,Nation/World

By Father Bill Vos
For The Visitor

  • Local goes global
    Anyone involved in fundraising for global causes has gotten this response: “But what about those who are hungry here? Shouldn’t we take care of our own first?”
    The best reply from a Christian perspective is simply to say, “How about both?!” Our Catholic view of social responsibility includes not only our immediate neighbor but, as Jesus would remind us, it’s anyone inneed: a migrant family in western Minnesota, a Syrian refugee or a widow in Homa Bay, Kenya. Each Lent, Catholics in the United States have an excellent opportunity to do just that, reaching out locally and globally: it’s called CRS Rice Bowl. It’s a program under the umbrella of Catholic Relief Services, handled locally by the St. Cloud Mission Office.
  • Who is actually helped?
    “There are times when the words ‘thank you’ just don’t seem to be quite enough. This is one of those times.” After this comment in her thank-you note to the Mission Office, a food shelf director went on to spell out the great impact the Rice Bowl grant has had on her community. Twenty-five percent of Rice Bowl monies collected stays local and is distributed as grants to parishes and agencies that submit applications to the diocesan Mission Office detailing the support they need for hunger programs that serve our diocese.
    In another small town a county-wide food assistance program served 1,832 families — 6,085 people — this past year. The Rice Bowl grant from the Mission Office was the largest single donor in meeting their needs.
  • CRS 2016 Rice BowlA great investment
    Another question often raised by donors is, “Just where does my money go? I want my donation to actually help people in need.” More good news about Rice Bowl: the accountability is as good as it gets. Locally, the Mission Office reviews and approves each grant application to ensure the funds are used for food and hunger-related relief programs and not for administration. A further boost to the local use of these funds is the result of purchases made through Second
    Harvest, where a $1 donation will purchase $10 worth of food.
  • Multiplication of loaves
    Another aspect of the impact of Rice Bowl funds is that most of the grants go to non-sectarian or ecumenical organizations. This means most often a collaborative effort, joining resources with government grants, local business donations, other religious groups as well as community fundraisers. One Rice Bowl grantee this past year reported that matching funds were raised from bake sales and fish fries. Local ownership and the engagement of all these various stakeholders raises the awareness of the needy among us.
  • CRS is among the best
    The global use of these funds by Catholic Relief Services consistently receives grade-A ratings from charitable evaluations as among the most efficient agencies in overhead versus program expenditures. As one of the largest non-profit relief organizations in the United States, with operations in over 100 countries, CRS presents a very positive face of the U.S. Catholic Church internationally.
  • Here’s how it works
    When parishioners at St. Mary Parish in Little Falls contribute almost $4,000, which they did, imagine what the local portion of $1,000 means to a food shelf in Menahga. Then consider the impact of the remaining $3,000 in the vital life-saving efforts of CRS with Syrian refugees in Jordan. It is no exaggeration to say that the lives of millions of needy are touched through our Lenten generosity.
  • Benefits for you, the giver
    But Rice Bowl is much more than financial outreach. It is really an extensive program that can touch so many aspects of our faith journey. Everyone can create their own mode of participation, besides using the parish-provided materials, by just going online to check out the many options and offerings:
    For example, it is a great opportunity to personally get on board with Pope Francis’ invitation to participate in the Jubilee Year of Mercy. In his own words, this is to be a “Year of mercy, not judgment.” Immersion in the Rice Bowl process is a means to go, as Pope Francis encourages us, to meet the people on the
  • Ready made for Lent
    Start with prayer, always an important aspect of renewal during Lent.
    The Rice Bowl materials can guide one through a global awareness with reflections on the Stations of the Cross, lives of the saints and other spiritual practices that capture our Catholic social teaching. With these resources our prayerful concerns are stretched to reach beyond our own personal issues, as our Holy Father would say, to encounter the most needy.
    The same with the Lenten discipline of fasting. The extensive coverage of Rice Bowl here in The Visitor throughout Lent includes a weekly feature of simple meatless recipes which you can share in your homes in solidarity with members of our global family who live with so much less. The Visitor website will even
    feature a weekly video of local Catholics cooking these meals, including Bishop Donald Kettler.
  • Resources are here for you
    For our youth, Rice Bowl offers a special connection with Pope Francis’ call to care for creation with a series of modules featuring excellent teaching examples. These are only available online at youth. Teachers and youth ministers have a ready-made resource too good to pass up.
    Even the little cardboard Rice Bowl distributed in every parish and school in the diocese is meant to be a reminder of the minimal level of subsistence of almost half of the world’s population which lives on less than $2.50 a day.
  • Applying for Rice Bowl grants
    For those who wish to apply for Rice Bowl grants, the application is easily accessible on the Mission Office website: We encourage everyone to share the information of the availability of these funds for any and all area food shelves and food-related programs.


Father Bill Vos is diocesan director of Catholic Relief Services